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Thursday July 12, 2012

Upgrading work causes damage to Bukit Kiara park

BUKIT KIARA, one of the last green belts in Kuala Lumpur, is slowly losing its beauty and value, and ironically this is in the name of preservation and development.

The National Landscape Department (JLN) has put up a 3.5m high fence along a 4.7km stretch as part of an upgrading project to demarcate the park and increase security for visitors.

Construction is still ongoing and this has resulted in an estimated 3,000 mature trees to be felled and trails damaged, among others.

The massive earthworks are also causing harm to the pristine water body in the heart of the park and all the points downstream.

Cause of the damage: (From left) Traks committee member Julian Gomez and Selangor Malaysian Nature Society chairman Henry Goh next to the 3.5m high security fencing that extends to about 4.7km.

With the construction and fencing, the walk up Bukit Kiara is not the same anymore.

Some trails have been blocked off and animals are now restricted of free movement in their own habitat.

Just two months ago, hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders were sharing the famous trails for their outdoor activities.

Being in such a beautiful surrounding, it is difficult to tell if one is still in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur.

Now, when using the trails, instead of hearing the chirping of birds and soothing sound of water gushing from the waterfalls, the loud and grating sounds of chainsaws being used and tractors bulldozing their way through are heard.

The Bukit Kiara issue has been widely reported in The Star recently.

Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (Traks) president Scott Roberts is devastated by the immense damage to the trails.

“These were painstakingly cared for by us and the volunteers all these years.

As a mountain biker, he feels sad over the situation.

“Among mountain bikers, the trails are known to be among the best in Asia. Volunteers have been maintaining the trail in the most natural way possible. They regularly clean and sweep the trail, ensure that water streams down in the right direction and does not cause damage,” he said.

Roberts said there were also plans to clear trails that connect the road to the park to build a 200-car parking space near the entrance.

“The proposed land to build the carpark has lovely trails. It would be a shame to have yet another man-made structure when there is an underutilised carpark in Taman Rimba Kiara, just behind the longhouses down the road.

“Traks has proposed a “green corridor” to provide shade for the walk from that carpark into the hills, a much more eco-friendly idea. People come to the park for a walk and it would not make much difference for them to walk an extra 200m,” he said.

A regular mountain biker Lee Ee Joe, 27, who has been riding in Bukit Kiara for the last two years, also expressed his disappointment over the condition of the trails now.

Widened: What used to be a 3ft single track trail can now accommodate a tractor to pass through. Contruction workers are seen busy at work.

“The trails, especially those towards the end nearing Desa Sri Hartamas, have been destroyed. What used to be a single track with a width of about three feet is now three-meters wide.

“The rubbish and debris left behind by the contractors are also an eyesore. I regularly clean and maintain the trails. Recently, I collected two bags of rubbish that was dumped near the trails,” he said.

Global Environmental Centre (GEC) River Care Programme coordinator Dr K. Kalithasan said GEC has been working on preserving Bukit Kiara since 2002 through Sungai Pencala Rehabilitation and restoration project.

“Our main interest in Bukit Kiara is the water body. Sungai Penchala.

“The water is clean and pure and classified as Class I by the Department of Environment,” he said.

“JLN through a series of meetings, acknowledges the importance of conserving the water body within the proposed park. However, for the past two years JLN has not been in touch with us and this has caused a lot of confusion and assumptions being made by the stakeholders. The fencing has brought matters to a head,” he said.

The Malaysian Institute of Planners president Datuk Dr Alias Abdullah, who is also a resident of TTDI, expressed his concerns over the project.

“JLN should take full responsibility to protect the natural environment.

“Many developed countries have huge parks, but no fences. I urge the department to discuss the matter at length with all concerned,” he said.

Ultimately, the stakeholders want the development in Bukit Kiara to stop and the green lung gazetted.

To create awareness on the situation at the park, Friends of Bukit Kiara is organising an “Awareness Walk” on July 15.

Volunteers are also conducting a signature campaign and hope to submit a petition to Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung during the planned walk..

“Save Bukit Kiara” T-shirts are also on sale for RM12 each.

More than 6,000 signatures have been collected and more than 1,000 T-shirts sold.

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